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Professor apologizes for telling college student she could not breastfeed during online class

Fresno City College professor displayed a shocking amount of insensitivity by not only refusing to let her breastfeed but also telling the class the next day about a "weird" request he received, effectively outing her.

Professor apologizes for telling college student she could not breastfeed during online class
Image Source: Getty Images/ Thanasis Zovoilis (representative)

Marcella Mares is a mother to a 10-month-old girl. She is also a student at Fresno City College in California. Owing to the ongoing pandemic, her classes have been moved online this semester. On September 23, she received an email from one of her professors about a new rule for her virtual class: students must turn on their cameras and microphones for attendance purposes. Mares, who simultaneously uses her time in virtual class to breastfeed her daughter, informed her professor that she would have to turn her camera off while she does so. Instead of understanding her predicament, the professor instructed her to breastfeed her daughter during another time, after class. He has since apologized for his insensitivity, CNN reports.




The ongoing public health crisis has forced many parents in the United States to rethink their work-life balance. Mares is one of them. When she emailed her professor about turning off her camera when she breastfeeds, she hoped it would not impact her grade. Her professor's response was therefore rather unexpected. It read, "I am glad to hear that you can have your camera and microphone on, but please do not breastfeed your daughter during class time because it is not what you should be doing. Just do that after class." The mother was, as you would assume, rather shocked to read her instructor's uncaring response.




"I was upset about it," Mares said in an interview with CNN. "I didn't like the feeling of him telling me what I can and can't do with my baby, especially in my own home because school is online right now." On the same day, her professor made a public statement in class about a "weird" email he received from a student who wanted to do some "inappropriate" things during class. She found this even more upsetting as she felt "he publicly outed [her] in front of the class." Therefore, the student reached out to Lorraine Smith, the Title IX coordinator at her college. A few days later, her professor promptly emailed her an apology.




"I am sorry for the inconvenience in regard to your intention of breastfeeding your baby," the professor's email read. "From now on, you have the right to breastfeed your baby at any given time during class, which includes doing group worksheets, listening to the lecture, and taking the quiz or exam. You may turn off your camera at any given time as needed." Though Mares later dropped the class due to unrelated reasons, she did wish that further action had been taken against the instructor. As per Fresno City College Public Information Officer Kathy Bonilla, the professor was not aware of California's breastfeeding rules and regulations. She stated, "California law requires that schools accommodate students for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth including lactation. The accommodation includes providing the time away from class to breastfeed without academic penalty."



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